The trial of the man responsible for the Norway massacre last year is well and truly underway. Anders Breivik, 33, who describes himself as a “militant Christian”, is charged with killing eight people in a car bomb attack on government buildings in Oslo, as well as the murder of 69 people in a gun attack on a Labour summer camp on the island of Utoeya on 22nd July 2011.
One of the main aims of the trial is to establish Breivik’s sanity. If he is found to be sane, he faces 21 years in jail, the maximum amount for murder in Norway, which can be extended. Otherwise, he will be locked up in a pysciatric institution and will, in theory, be released when he is deemed not dangerous. So far, there have been conflicting psychiatric reports, with one stating that he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and another claiming that he is not psychotic and likely to re-offend. Breivik himself is eager to be established as sane as he doesn’t want his political message to be tarnished, if he is found not to be so. In fact, he believes that questioning his sanity is a plot to demean his political ideals. However, he does not think that a jail sentence is appropriate punishment either, “There are only two just and fair outcomes of this trial – acquittal or capital punishment. I consider 21 years of prison as a pathetic punishment.” Norway does not have the death penalty and even his defence team admit there is no chance of acquittal.
When asked for his plea, Breivik “acknowledged” the acts committed but denied any criminal responsibility on the grounds that he was acting in self-defence. He claimed that he was acting on a “crusade” against Islam and multiculturalism, in order to protect Norway and Europe. He also claimed to be part of a far-right political network called the ‘Knights Templar’; the prosecution, however , denies its existence due to a lack of evidence. Breivik went on to state that, “I do not recognise the Norwegian courts. You have received your mandate from political parties which support multiculturalism.”
Far from showing any remorse for his horrific actions, not only did he say that he would do it again, Breivik smirked when he entered the courtroom and held his right fist high in a salute – a manoeuvre that he has now stopped after being asked to by his lawyers. He showed no emotion when the details of his murders were read out but wiped tears from his eyes when a short film about the evils of multiculturalism that he posted online before his attacks was played in court.
Breivik confessed that he intended hundreds to die in his attacks, with his main target being the ex Labour Prime Minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland, who he meant to behead and post a video of the killing online, an idea which he got from al-Qaeda. He admitted that he had planned for the car bomb to kill the whole government. He had originally intended to make three car bombs but resorted to just one when he realised the complexities of bomb-making.
Breivik, who lured many of his victims to him by dressing as a police officer, insists that he is not a “child murderer” despite the Labour camp he targeted being for youths, “I believe that all political activists who choose to fight for multiculturalism are a legitimate target… It is not desirable to focus on people under the age of 18 but there was no other desirable political target on that day.” He claims that he did try to avoid shooting anyone that appeared to be under the age of 16.
Towards the end of the week, Breivik claimed that he was normally a nice person and so had deliberately begun to dehumanise himself in 2006, in preparation for the massacre. He admitted that he could understand other people’s stricken reactions to his testimony but he could not empathise with them, because if he comprehended what he had done, he would “break down mentally”. He went on to say that he had not wanted to kill “civilians”, only “government targets” but it was impossible not to kill any. He has since apologised, to those killed and injured in the Oslo bombing, as they were not the enemy he had intended the attack for.
Not only did Breivik undertake training by spending hours playing video games, he also studied organisations like al-Qaeda, which “embrace martyrdom”; in his view this “is key to the successful resistance fight”. He said that he had expected to die in the process of his attack. While his political views are extremely far-right, he describes himself as “anti-Nazi”, saying that, “A National Socialist would say, ‘Norway for the Norwegians’. I am more liberal, I would accept 2% perhaps (of the population not being ethnically Norwegian).”
Disturbingly, Breivik told the court that he had originally called the police to surrender, but on receiving no response, decided to carry on his attack “until I die” assuming that police would soon arrive and kill him. His intentions in his testimony were to demonstrate that he is sane by claiming that he made a rational decision to keep on going.
Breivik’s own testimony has lasted five days. The entire trial, which many have referred to as Norway’s trial of the century, is set to last 10 weeks.